Tour of Flanders Acquired by Saudi Investors

All change. Professional cycling has seen rising interest from the Middle-East, especially Saudi Arabia. Now this has gone from tentative handshakes and side sponsorships to a takeover with the news that the Tour of Flanders has been bought by Saudi investors. The race is to be rebranded as the “Flanders Tour presented by Al Lua” and move to the desert.

The race will use a six kilometre loop to be tackled 40 times. “The circuit system is ideal as we can have more of the essential VIP tents” says Al Lua events director Sheikh Kadabat Al Abrila. “These tents will be very comfortable with air conditioning, haute cuisine dining and feature cabaret-style acts and drone displays to keep guests entertained.”

Faced with criticism that the race won’t be the same, Al Abrila says “the race stopped touring most of Flanders long ago and was doing the same circuit again and again with a finish in the middle of nowhere so this isn’t that much of a leap” and knowingly adding “with the sand it could almost be Koksijde or De Panne, no?”

Innovation is the watchword and the plan is to make the race more lively with regular sprints to prevent lulls in the action. Every lap there will be 31-23-19-17-13-11-7-5-3-2 points available for the first ten riders across the line. Points will be doubled every seven laps. The winner of the competition sponsored by Microsoft Excel will collect two million Riyals, about €500,000. That’s more than the Tour de France winner’s prize making it the biggest prize in the sport, a sure sign that this is now the most valuable race in the world.

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The new owners are keen to embrace traditions and promise to build two steep climbs. The Huaweiberg will be 800m long at 10% while the Pepsiberg will feature a 20% ramp including authentic Flemish cobbles that will be stripped from the Koppenburg and flown over to be installed by Kashmiri artisans. “Our workers will do a much better job at setting the stones than those West Flemish builders” boasts Al Abrila. Improved safety is a commitment too and it should be a smoother race thanks to dry roads and few spectators to get in the way.

The plan seems to be going down well in Saudi Arabia. Today’s Riyadh Gazette newspaper hails “a visionary master stroke by his Excellency” and the Saudi Times is also giving it the thumbs up, declaring it to be “a visionary master stroke by his Excellency”, while Al Deawa proclaims it to be “a visionary master stroke by his Excellency”.

Back in provincial Belgium a protest in Geraardsbergen yesterday saw the mayor lead a march where mourning fans carried a symbolic coffin but they are described by officials close to the new project as “petty dinosaurs” opposed to reform.

Speaking poolside from a newly-acquired villa in Saudi, one cycling official said “it’s great to see the sport become more professional” while a rider said “[Dries – insert enthusiastic attributed quote here]”.

A spokesman for the Saudi investors behind the deal said they realised they could buy soccer clubs in Europe but this does not guarantee victory. Here they could buy the event outright and even invite who they want to take part.

Exclusive travel packages and the VIP dining experience for 2025 will go on sale shortly.

48 thoughts on “Tour of Flanders Acquired by Saudi Investors”

  1. There’s a typo at the end of the second paragraph where it should read “drone displays to keep the guest entertained ” as most desert races have between 0 and 2 spectators.

  2. Are they going to import the crappy Belgian weather as well? Cloud seeding? An enormous, refrigerated glass dome for authentic temperatures?

  3. A prime set of points for the sprints!
    btw, my company supplied the steam generators for DEWA CSP site in Dubai, any relation to “Daewa”? πŸ˜„

  4. Saudia Airlines will revive Sabena and fly Belgians with a valid VIP ticket in the three days before and after the race up and down for free.

    • Ha, the missing prime number, well-spotted. A joke explained is a joke ruined but this came to mind because so many of the points competitions are complicated, even an intermediate sprint in the Tour de France but the old Hammer Series came to mind where you needed a spreadsheet on your lap to try and keep up.

      • It took me a 2nd read to realise it was prime numbers but once I did I thought that if Microsoft Excel pulled out of sponsorship they could ask Amazon Prime to take over!

  5. We laugh, but I can think of a sport where they’ve done something not too disimilar……

    In rallying the top tier championship, the WRC has gone from handing out points at the end of an event, to now handing out 3 sets of points for the same event………So now the winner doesn’t always get the most points – ridiculous?

    Some sports administrators/ promoters will always look to ‘improve’ an event/ sport – and damn the history.

  6. Inrng this article is a big departure from the norm. Can you comment on the motivation behind doing so.

    (Brilliantly written and nice allegory btw)

  7. I like that in the last photo, the placard on the left has the line “woustijnvis op het menu” – “desert fish on the menu”.

    I don’t get the original reference, I guess something to do with a Flemish production company by that name “Woustijnvis” having something to do with the Ronde’s route being changed (?), but seeing “Woustijnvis” in this article is funny :).

    The origin of Woustijnvis is pretty funny: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woestijnvis

    Desert Fish!

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